By Eric Miller – 12/27/23
Eco-optimism: Six Positive Climate Highlights of 2023
When considering climate change, it is natural to feel pessimistic or overwhelmed by negative news stories. Stories of unprecedentedly high temperatures and extreme weather events around the world are deeply concerning and highlight the importance of swift and resolute action to fight climate change. But for many, these stories can be discouraging, and breed apathy at a time when steadfastness is needed instead. As we look ahead to 2024, a clean slate for climate action, let’s first take a look back at 2023, and some of the encouraging pieces of climate change and renewable energy news we have seen throughout the world, the United States, and Pennsylvania.
Nations struck a deal at COP28 to transition away from fossil fuels and boost renewables
COP is an important United Nations climate change conference in which nations from around the world meet and work together to set climate goals. In December of this year, COP28 was held, and delegates from nearly 200 nations reached a groundbreaking agreement aimed at reducing global fossil fuel consumption. The deal signifies a pivotal shift away from reliance on oil, gas, and coal, marking a unified global commitment to combat climate change. Key points include a call for transitioning to renewable energy sources, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, and accelerating the adoption of clean energy technologies like carbon capture and storage. The agreement also emphasizes the need for an equitable and just transitioning process. Despite critiques noting slow progress, overrepresentation of fossil fuel interests, and insufficient financing for developing nations, this landmark deal reflects a significant step towards a sustainable future, propelled by mounting public support, advancing technology, and global investment in renewables and electric vehicles.
35% of the entire world’s electricity will come from renewables by 2025
The IEA’s Electricity Market Report 2023 brought encouraging news, indicating a hopeful trajectory in the fight against climate change. With the rapid expansion of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power, renewable energy is poised to cover a big portion of the globe’s increased electricity demand by 2025. This surge in renewables is expected to reduce reliance on coal and gas, contributing to a rise in renewables’ share in the global power generation mix to 35%, thereby curbing global power-sector CO2 emissions. Despite escalating global electricity needs, this shift is forecasted to level off emissions by 2025, marking a potential turning point in emissions. The report also highlights substantial clean energy investments by governments worldwide, especially in China and the European Union, who are currently the main drivers of global renewable energy growth. Renewables are growing at a rapid rate, and this trajectory looks all but certain to continue over the coming decades.
The United States
The Biden administration invested a historic $3.5B in grid enhancements this year
A pivotal move unfolded in the US this year—a historic investment of $3.5 billion directed towards fortifying America’s power grid. This transformative initiative, covering 58 projects across 44 states, signifies the largest-ever infusion into the country’s grid infrastructure, amounting to over $8 billion when combined with other funding sources. This investment targets critical facets of the grid, from expanding renewable energy capacity to shoring up resilience against extreme weather events. The investment will also go towards smart grids and increased electricity hookups, both representing a major step forward for renewable energy capacity. This landmark endeavor not only addresses immediate needs but also sets the stage for a technologically advanced, climate-resilient future grid system, aligned with national clean energy goals and environmental justice initiatives.
The United States set a new record for solar installation in 2023
In 2023, the US achieved a groundbreaking milestone in solar energy, installing a record-breaking 33 gigawatts of solar capacity, the largest annual addition in history according to the SEIA/Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables U.S. Solar Market Insight. This surge was mainly fueled by an 86 percent growth in utility-scale installations, overcoming supply chain challenges from the previous year. However, projections indicate a potential 12 percent decline in residential solar installations, largely due to significant policy changes in California, a key market. Though the solar market faces obstacles such as lengthy interconnection waits, grid congestion, and labor shortages, experts remain optimistic, foreseeing a doubling of the current solar capacity in the US by 2027. This optimistic projection underscores the industry’s resilience and its pivotal role in driving The United States toward a renewable energy future.
PA Implemented an expanded Environmental Justice Policy in September
As we reflect on the environmental milestones of 2023, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection stands out for its overhaul of the state’s environmental justice policy earlier this year. This revised policy represents an important step toward establishing an equitable framework in our journey toward a cleaner energy future. By employing a new, more comprehensive assessment tool, these new guidelines broaden the scope of criteria beyond traditional demographics to encompass rural and low-income areas grappling with increased pollution burdens. Additionally, it introduced the prospect of imposing escalated fines for violations within marginalized communities, emphasizing accountability for those neglecting environmental equity. While this is just a step on the road to widespread environmental justice in PA, a new environmental justice framework serves as a testament to the ongoing commitment to equitable environmental protection, acknowledging the imperative of inclusive progress in our collective pursuit of sustainable clean energy solutions.
Philadelphia’s Heat Pump Training Lab boosts our Clean Energy Future
Philadelphia’s new heat pump training lab, unveiled by the Energy Coordinating Agency, marks a crucial step toward building our region’s clean energy future. These heat pumps, operating solely on electricity, not only slash carbon emissions from residential buildings, but also align with renewable energy and electrification objectives. Electrification is a vital part of the clean energy transition and making it more affordable across income groups is a vital environmental justice initiative. The program is aimed at training workers to install, maintain, and repair heat pumps in older homes, and provides a direct pathway to well-paying jobs in the burgeoning clean energy sector. By training a substantial workforce annually, the program significantly contributes to both environmental sustainability and economic empowerment in the city and complements Philadelphia’s broader push to transition away from fossil fuels and towards electrified systems. Ultimately, it stands as a cornerstone in Pennsylvania’s journey towards a cleaner, more renewable energy landscape, because as more homes rely on electricity-driven heat pumps, a clean energy future becomes increasingly achievable.
As we close the books on 2023, it’s vital to remember the threads of optimism woven through the challenges we face in combatting climate change. The strides made globally, from COP28’s historic pledge to pivot away from fossil fuels to the projection that more than a third of the world’s electricity will be sourced from renewables by 2025, exemplify a collective determination toward a sustainable future. In the United States, the Biden administration’s historic investment in grid enhancements and the record-breaking solar installations signify tangible progress propelled by decisive action. Pennsylvania’s expanded Environmental Justice Policy and Philadelphia’s pioneering heat pump training lab spotlight localized efforts toward a cleaner energy landscape, championing both equity and innovation.
As members of The Energy Co-op, each of you is an indispensable piece of this puzzle too, contributing to these promising milestones. Remember, these achievements are stepping stones toward a brighter future, underlining the power of incremental progress and collective action. Let’s look ahead to a positive 2024 filled with more groundbreaking strides. Together, we’ll continue to build upon these victories, knowing that each effort, each innovation, and each commitment brings us closer to a world powered by renewable energy and governed by sustainability. Here’s to a year ahead filled with positive climate news and unwavering dedication to shaping a better, greener tomorrow, one step at a time.